Rupture and Repair – the power of an apology

For me, the holiday season is both my favorite time of year and the most dreaded.  I love all the holiday magic downtown, the festive parties, and the joy that comes from giving the perfect gift.  I also hate the lines at stores, the insane calendar management, the budgeting, and the stress of trying to find the perfect gift.  And then on top of that, there is the holiday *magic* that must happen. When you add the regularly scheduled school activities, work activities, and sickness (of which I am pretty sure we have now had it all), it can be too much for me and I snap.  

Unfortunately, snapping for me looks like yelling at everyone in my house to “pick up their stuff and do something – anything!” and if I am exceptional in my yelling, my little one is in tears.  It is the worst. My anger usually doesn’t consider that everyone else has also had their own challenges in their day.  My husband worked too, my daughter navigated exams, and my littlest made it through the whole day managing all his energy and emotions so he could try hard and stay on task, which may be the hardest thing of all right now. My yelling solves none of this but causes rupture instead. 

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy has an entire TED talk dedicated to the feelings that happen when we snap as parents and how to repair them. Her Talk is entitled, “The Single Most Important Parenting Strategy” and she tells her audience to, “Get good at repair, taking responsibility for your behavior and acknowledging the impact it had on another.”  She continues to say, “When you repair, you go further than just lifting the self-blame, you get to add in the other things that were missing in the first place– the safety, connection, coherence, love, and goodness.” Thank you, Dr. Becky! She continues to talk about how children who internalize self-blame become adults who do the same because that is the only tool they have.  These adults are then more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and deep feelings of worthlessness so there are large consequences to the rupture if left alone.  

The Circle of Security curriculum we use at the Children & Family Resource Center also talks about the power of rupture and repair.  Circle of Security is an 8-week reflective program designed to help caregivers and those who support families as they understand your child’s emotional world by learning to read the emotional needs, support the child’s ability to successfully manage emotions, enhance the development of the child’s self-esteem, and honor the caregiver’s innate wisdom and desire for their child to be secure.   

One of their core tenets is that children grow and develop and step out into the “circle” but then come back looking for safety and attachment from the caregiver. When a rupture happens, the caregiver steps out of the circle, and repair is needed. Kent Hoffman, Bert Powell & Glen Cooper are the authors of Raising a Secure Child and the creators of the Circle of Security parenting model.  In their book, they write, “Ruptures happen. Repairs also happen. This is a very positive thing because children end up being more secure when they find that good things can follow bad things. We’re not perfect, and if we were, we’d be setting our children up for severe disappointment in a world that is anything but perfect.” 

For years, Children & Family Resource Center has talked about the parenting emotional roller coaster and its many challenges.  We say that our programs exist because children don’t come with manuals. When I participated in the Circle of Security course last year, I heard something that resonated with me. Circle of Security states that” our children are the instruction manual because, from the moment they’re born, they’re doing their best to tell us what they need.” 

Our world is certainly imperfect and each of us is as well.  When we acknowledge our imperfections and repair connections though, we are building security in our children and the relationships we have with them.  Plus, when I apologize to my kids and my husband, I feel a weight lifted and the shame starts to drift away.  The beautiful part of repair too is that there is no statute of limitations for an apology.  It’s never too late to reach out and repair past ruptures.  

This holiday season, I encourage you to seek connection with your people and be open to repair.  Families are complicated, parenting is tough, and our world is imperfect.  Our kids might not remember that Stanley Cup or remote-control car, but they will remember how we made them feel safe, secure, and loved. 

If you are interested in participating in our Circle of Security, the next class will begin Tuesday, February 13th, and will meet every Tuesday from 5:30-7:30pm for 8 weeks, just call Children & Family Resource Center to register 828-698-0674.  

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